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31 March 2011 - 7:29pm
We've all done it while posing for a group photo.
Someone has to be the clown, right?
Whether it's the fingers-in-a-V behind your brother's head or crossing your eyes, you've done it, too, haven't you?
Here's a long-ago photo from a friend in Indiana tourism (Jan, you haven't changed one little bit!).
Jan tells this story about this photo with her brother, Jeff:
I think I was five ... so this would have been 1966 and we traveled from Angola, Indiana, to Santa Claus.
My mom thought this would be our Christmas card photo that year.
My parents watched us take the picture and never saw me stick my tongue out (until the photo arrived back in Angola). Needless to say, my mom had to stage a new picture.
This has provided us with lots of laughs over the years and I thought you guys would get a kick out of it.
Do you have a favorite photo and story from a visit to Santa Claus Land or Holiday World & Splashin' Safari? We'd love to hear it -- and maybe even feature it here on our HoliBlog.
30 March 2011 - 12:37pm
You know how you have to prepare the earth when you plant a new tree or shrub?
We sort of have to do the same thing for a new ride...
Our crews are busy creating a landing spot where Rudolph’s Round-Up will call home. The work required some very loud excavation work.
Don’t worry... Santa, his reindeer, and sleighs are relaxing on the other side of the park; their big debut is May 7!
23 March 2011 - 6:59pm
Walking from one department to another in many businesses entails little more than going across a room, down a hall, or riding the elevator up to another floor.
Here at Holiday World, I'm learning you have to go the distance to get from one co-worker’s "desk" to another.
There are three ways to get between our different offices and work spaces sprawled across 125 acres here at the park. You can hop in your car and spend half a minute driving to another area of the park, but that can feel just downright silly. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones with a golf cart, the trip is even easier and you can stay on grounds. (I'm finding you can usually stick out a thumb and hitch a ride from a coworker, too.) The third and final option is to go for a stroll, down one hill and up another to get from point A to point B.
Yesterday, I chose to go by foot. Depending on the route you take, it’s a good five to 10-minute trek. It’s a time to grab a bit of fresh air and enjoy this amazing spring weather, the blooming Bradford pear trees, and everything else that comes with it.
The symphony of preparations for the 2011 season is loud and clear. The beeping, creaking and grinding of heavy equipment rumbling around push dozens of park projects closer to completion.
I caught sight of several of our Coaster Maintenance Technicians, working high above the park, rhythmically driving new bolts into The Legend’s track. From a distance it sounded like a percussion competition with coaster techs going head to head with a woodpecker furiously tapping away in one of our stands of trees.
As I detoured for a closer look at what the racket was about, the coaster guys quickly questioned who was this strange man standing below them with a camera. Believe it or not, these guys aren’t regularly in the public spotlight, doing their most visible work during the hours we’re not open to the public.
“So who are you?” Bryan shouted 20-feet above me while drilling out a hole for a new bolt. I know I stick out like a sore thumb walking around the park, my dress slacks and polo shirt undeniably different from the Holiday World work uniforms.
I’m the new kid in class.
“I’m Nathan, the new guy working over in the PR department,” I hollered.
We shouted niceties back and forth, getting to know each other from a distance separated by wooden pilings, coaster track and safety nets.
“Well, I could use some extra hands up here,” Bryan laughed. “How about I just call over to Paula and let her know we’re going to put you to work up here on The Legend’s track for a little bit?”
“Give it a shot,” I tossed back, hoping my new boss wasn't ready to loan me out to a different department just yet.
Then another one of our Coaster Maintenance Technicians, James, arrived to help Bryan as they worked a new piece of side steel into The Legend’s track. I snapped some shots of them working high above the ground.
“We do require a $100 royalty for each photo and it can be payable by check,” joked James.
It’s good to see these guys still have a good sense of humor while they’re physically toiling away and getting downright filthy to keep our coasters in tip-top shape.
Next, I nearly stumbled over members of our Grounds Crew marching up one path and down another planting dozens of new trees, fertilizing the grass, and pressure-washing every square-inch of surface in the park. (I'm quickly learning we like to keep everything exceptionally clean around here!)
This is the time of the year that you can feel the excitement of Opening Day steadily headed in our direction. Whether it’s learning to use a fire extinguisher (see video below) or scrubbing every available surface, scores of employees are already hard at work inside the park.
Soon, rather than the sounds of tile saws and pressure washers, the air will be filled with squeals of joy and excitement as families make even more memories here as we begin our 65th season.
18 March 2011 - 12:30pm
Today, we introduce a second HoliBlogger ... Nathan Ryder joined our PR staff this week:
Sometimes trial by fire is just the best way to learn or as Mrs. Koch put it yesterday, getting thrown in at the deep end.
I’m a newcomer to Holiday World, joining the family as Public Relations Manager on Wednesday.
Little did I know less than 24 hours after dotting the last “I” and crossing the last “T” on the novel of human resources paperwork, I would be wrangling Mrs. Koch, two of her grown children and two grandchildren. It was a treat I’ll chuckle about for a long time.
The wrangling wasn’t over anything that happened at the park. Mrs. Koch was inducted into the Evansville Business Hall of Fame at the Junior Achievement awards breakfast held in downtown Evansville Thursday. Accompanying her was her son Dan, our fearless President and CEO and his two young children. Mrs. Koch’s younger daughter Natalie was also along for the excitement, getting a prime seat at the head table next to her mom.
Keep in mind, I had never met Dan or Mrs. Koch.
I knew Natalie from my whirlwind office tour on my first day and was pleased to see a couple of other familiar faces when I entered the ballroom for breakfast. My introduction to Dan happened just as I returned to our Holiday World table with my plate of food. Sitting in my seat at the table was Dan's seven-year-old son David, a perfect little gentleman, dressed immaculately in a khaki suit complete with tie.
I wouldn’t dream of booting a Koch from a seat, let alone this little guy who sat politely eating his french toast sticks and strawberries. Then Natalie insisted I take her seat. It was like getting a seat at the Koch family dinner table!
Mrs. Koch circled her flock before the program began, carrying a plate of food and nibbling cheerfully as she walked around to talk with each of us. She knew who I was and we laughed about meeting each other for the first time while both our mouths were full of food. She apologized for missing my introductory lunch on Wednesday (as if I was going to hold a grudge against this sweet lady who was also my new boss).
The program began and eventually Mrs. Koch was called into the spotlight, awarded for her achievements working tirelessly to mentor any youth that crossed her path. Mrs. Koch, who pays attention to every little detail and instills some pretty astounding work ethics, made sure to thank the packed hall for turning out so early in the morning.
If you can’t already tell by her glowing personality, Mrs. Koch knows how to work a room no matter what the size. Just a couple weeks past all the glamor and glitz of the Oscars, Mrs. Koch made sure to slide in a crowd pleasing poke at herself with the fun and witty sense of humor that is purely her own.
Mrs. Koch told the crowd her “gown was J.C. Penney and the jewels were paid for by me.” Who couldn’t laugh? She’s good!
Along with the honors, Mrs. Koch was bestowed with an award that weighed about as much as a 25-pound sack of flour, a stack of programs and even a beautifully framed picture for her office wall.
Looking at the stack, I thought they should have included a dolly to carry it all back out to the parking lot. You don’t need a dolly though when you’ve got a staff to pitch in and help and who doesn’t want to help out Mrs. Koch. She giggled, looking at my arms overloaded with her loot and exclaimed, “only your second day and we’re really throwing you in the deep end, carrying all my stuff.”
If this is truly the deep end here at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, I think I like my new family.
Check out the fun video below that was produced to introduce Mrs. Koch and her achievements to the crowd.
10 March 2011 - 9:05pm
If, in the past 65 years, you worked at Santa Claus Land or Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, you will recognize that phrase.
And who said it.
He's the only person who worked here every year of our history.
All except when he served his country in the Army, during the Korean War.
Joe lived in the same house all of his life. How many of us can say that?
The house moved, but Joe never did.
Let me explain: Joe lived all his life in Lincoln City, which is about four miles west of us here in Santa Claus.
His family home was on land that was part of the original Lincoln farm. (Yes, that Lincoln.)
When the State of Indiana purchased the land so that Lincoln State Park could include the full Lincoln acreage, Joe's family home was physically moved, but it remained in Lincoln City.
Joe was born on May 9, 1929. The Great Depression was still months away and World War II a decade away.
Joe was a country boy.
Joe graduated from Dale High School in 1947. His uncle had helped him land a job down the road at a new place called Santa Claus Land.
He may not have known it yet, but he was a career man.
Over the years, Joe has done just about everything here at the park. Whatever needed to be done, Joe was happy to step up and do it.
Well, maybe not entertainment.
Come to think of it, though, my oldest son, Tom, tells me Joe would occasionally perform for his Cash Control crew: He'd bring in the CD for Les Miserables. When "Master of the House" played, Joe would dance along. It was hilarious.
Joe also brought in doughnuts every Sunday morning for his crew. Just because he was Joe.
As a parent, knowing Joe was my two older sons' first boss was a blessing. I knew they would work hard and would enjoy every moment of it. Countless parents knew the same over the decades.
Here's Joe long before his Cash Control days:
This photo was even a postcard. "Hey! You're famous, Joe!"
Joe would use that phrase in just about every way. It was his all-purposed reaction. It worked just fine whether he was surprised, amazed, interested, shocked or amused.
Kris Kamp grew up knowing Joe and eventually worked with him. Kris's great-grandfather was Louis J. Koch, who founded Santa Claus Land.
Kris wrote: May Joe rest in peace while he joins Bill Koch and Will Koch in Heaven…playing cards together and having conversations about the past. Joe was a great man to work for and know personally; part of my work ethic I have today was learned from him. I will always remember his jokes, laughter, and knowledge he shared with me every day for eight years in Cash Control. I will truly miss him…and all he shared with me…
Natalie Koch, the youngest of Bill and Pat's five children, writes: Working in Joe's office was a rite of passage for all the Koch kids. The time I spent with Joe was one of the most enjoyable of my work experiences growing up. I remember working late on Saturday nights with Joe. After my father would leave, Joe would turn on the radio and listen to "A Prairie Home Companion." I loved the way he would laugh at the jokes even though I was too young to understand them at the time.
Even in his later years when Joe had much younger staff working for him, he would volunteer to make a change run all the way to the other end of the park. Joe always set the example for hard work and he truly loved his job. Joe knew all the history of Santa Claus Land and Holiday World. He was a great source of information on just about any topic.
He taught me much about what it meant to be a loyal person with integrity and honesty. I will miss him tremendously. He was not just an employee but an important part of my family.
Joe didn't have any children of his own; he never married.
But he was everyone's favorite uncle:
Joe loved to see his crew members succeed. He'd applaud their plans for college and encouraged them to go after professional internships, even though it meant leaving him.
Joe studied, too. He loved history, especially to learn more about Abraham Lincoln, especially the 14 years young Abraham lived in what was to become Lincoln City, Joe's hometown.
When he was just 12, Joe was chosen to help lay the cornerstone of the new Lincoln Memorial being built by the State of Indiana in what was then Lincoln State Park and is now the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.
Joe is doing the heavy lifting in this 1941 photo. And who is the little girl in the ringlets? None other than 10-year-old Patsy Ann Yellig. (You know her as Pat Koch.)
Here they are together, a few years later:
When I called Mrs. Koch on Tuesday evening to tell her Joe had gone to heaven, she sighed. So many years of friendship and fun. So much laughter and hard work. "Joe was the very definition of loyalty. Such a wonderful man."
Several years ago during a meeting of the park's directors, Will asked us about taking on a new challenge. He wanted us to help him decide whether to move forward with his idea. The reaction was mixed, and as we went around the conference-room table, some gave good reason why the proposal might not be do-able. Until we got to Joe. He took a deep breath and said very simply, "Will, if you think this is the right thing for the park, then we need to do it."
You could have heard a pin drop. The decision was made. And we moved forward without looking back, continuing to grow and prosper.
Joe and Mr. Koch were wonderful friends. It was always fun to see them together. Sometimes it was all business. Other times they would swap stories and remember the days they were bachelors together.
Here's Bill Koch handing Joe a Service Award certificate (a company tradition, given out following each five years of service).
Over the years, the Service Awards became plaques and then etched crystal awards.
One year, Will Koch added something new: the Holiday World Hall of Fame.
Joe was the first recipient.
With the Holiday World Hall of Fame, there was more than a plaque. In future years, recipients received a generous check.
But for Joe, our Cash Control Chief, the bonus came packaged more appropriately.
Here's Natalie Koch and her brother Philip, presenting a tray heaped with wrapped coins for Joe. (That's Philip's daughter, Alexa, taking a peek as Joe laughs.)
Susan Lautner, our Purchasing Manager, tells this story: I worked seasonally in cash control one entire summer and then weekends-only for several years and the ONLY time the radio was turned on was on Saturday evenings for Garrison Keillor’s "A Prairie Home Companion." My coworkers and I thought the show was kind of corny but hey, at least the radio was on! Joe loved that radio show and to this day any time I hear mention of Garrison Keillor it reminds me of Joe.
Sometimes, though, Joe would be much less predictable.
My middle son, John, remembers the time Joe switched it up. Instead of Les Miserables on the CD player, Joe popped in an ABBA album. The stunned crew said not a word as "Mama Mia," "Honey Honey" and "SOS" played over and over all afternoon. When Joe stepped out for a minute, his staff members grinned in amusement. "Joe--what the heck?"
Dan Koch remembers Joe fondly: He always had a smile and a laugh. He was a kind-hearted, good-natured man. We should all strive to have the qualities that Joe had as an individual. He was a dear friend of my father from the time my father moved to Santa Claus in the mid '40s until my father's passing in 2001. I have been told far too many stories about Joe and my father's after-work fun to repeat here. But both Joe and my father had a tremendous work ethic, sense of values, enjoyment of work and respect for all individuals. Joe was a beloved friend of the Koch family beginning with my Grandfather L.J. Koch (Joe was hired by my grandfather) and all of my father's siblings and their descendants. Joe was also a beloved friend of the Santa Claus Land and Holiday World family. I am brought to tears as I write this. God bless Joe. He will be missed.
It was just last year that Joe was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it like crazy and still came to work when he could. He didn't want to be fussed over. He just wanted to be part of the team.
Everyone's favorite uncle, Joe A. Hevron, will be buried in Old Pigeon Cemetery, on the same quiet plot of land where Abraham Lincoln's only sister was laid to rest nearly 200 years ago. It's located inside of Lincoln State Park in Joe's beloved Lincoln City.
Visitation is tomorrow, Friday, March 11, from 3:00 to 8:00 pm CST at Fuller Funeral Home in Dale.
A Celebration of Joe's Life will be held Saturday, March 12, at 10:00 am CST in the Lincoln Hall at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. If you've ever worked at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari (or even Santa Claus Land) and would like to wear your uniform, please do. Joe would be so pleased.
In lieu of flowers, Joe's family suggests donations be made to the Dale Presbyterian Church Building Fund or the Old Pigeon Cemetery Fund.
This last story can't be credited to anyone in particular, as nearly everyone has brought it up: Joe never forgot a person's name. If he met you once, he remembered your name. And your story.
And Joe, we will never forget yours.
Rest in peace, dear friend.